In July of 2015, representatives from WARECOD led a Thaibaan research group from Viet Nam on a study tour of Southern Laos to visit other village research groups. Here are some impressions from the individuals who were part of the trip.
After 2 days of travelling, the Vietnam team, which included 5 researchers from the Mekong delta of Vietnam and 2 staff from WARECOD, finally arrived in Laos for a study trip designed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience about Thaibaan research. This was such an interesting and memorable trip.
When I first set foot in Laos, I was deeply impressed with the hospitality and sincerity of people in this country. Although I was unable to directly communicate with them and had to speak through an interpreter, I could clearly feel they were friendly and kind-hearted people.
The second thing I loved about this trip was the food in Champasak. The food people eat everyday is sticky rice, and they have an interesting way to cook food: the spicy flavor of chillies goes well with the sweet and tough texture of Mekong fish. Perhaps fish in different places taste different, which was exciting to me.
It would be a major shortcoming if I did not mention the ly fishing trap, a historical and unique fishing tool in this area. The ly brings the main source of income for local people. Lys are made of long pieces of bamboo or wood, with the lower part fixed to the river by stones. Everyday, the local people collect fish from the lys and store the fish at home. They told us that this year, the water level was much lower than the previous year and the amount of fish was lower as well. This problem should be discussed among the Mekong countries to find out the reasons. We were also told that the Government decided the ly should be banned. A company called MegaFirst (an investor for Mekong dams) feared that the lys would consume too much wood and overexploit fish! However, if lys are not allowed to be used, the income of local people will drop significantly because there is no replacement fishing tool. If the Government is going to ban the use of lys, they must organize trainings on livelihood activities and create more jobs for local people.
The fourth impression is the green color of the trees and fields. I recall my hometown 10 years ago, with the green of trees and the red of soil – so peaceful. In addition, Laotian people have amazing architecture and build their houses on stilts.
Lastly, I like the lack of traffic here very much: few vehicle and very little noise-pollution – unlike in Vietnam. Yet some roads were degraded and it would be dangerous to drive fast.
I hope there will be more trips like this one so that we can reconnect with nature, listen to it and feel it, and work together to protect it.
Written by Truong Thi Luu. Featured photo by Truong Van Khoi.
Translated by Duong Thu Hang of WARECOD. This study tour was funded by Oxfam Australia in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.